These days, Norma Somerfeldt finds the Seniors Transportation Program indispensable.
She uses it for grocery shopping. She uses it for doctor appointments. She even uses it to take her dog for a haircut. It’s hard to believe there was a time she didn’t know much about it.
“I think I was here about two years before I realized that I was seeing this car running around that had ‘Seniors Transportation’ (on it),” said Somerfeldt, who moved to Prince Albert in 2014. “I still never gave it much thought, but I was tired of paying out money to delivery services and cab companies, so I looked them up in the phone book.”
Years later, Somerfeldt is still happy with her decision. She likes the people who run the service, and the flexibility is offers. That’s why she didn’t mind stepping in as this year’s Mary as part of the annual Two Miles for Mary Radiothon campaign. The request did surprise her, however.
“I said, ‘really? Was there nobody else?’” Somerfeldt said with a laugh when asked about her reaction.
“I don’t like my picture taken, but I guess somebody had to do it.”
The past year has been a difficult one for the Seniors Transportation Service. Many of the events and services their clients attended temporarily shut down or moved online once COVID-19 hit. Even when conditions improved, many regular riders preferred to stay home rather than risk going out.
That’s put a stress on the service’s resources. As the spokeswoman for this year’s campaign, Somerfeldt said she can’t imagine what seniors in Prince Albert would do if it shut down.
“It would be terrible,” she said. “I don’t know what else to say. It would be awful because when you’re on a fixed income, you can’t afford cab rates, … and we all know how some of them can take forever. We have to keep that (service) going. It’s reasonable. It’s a very good price.”
Friday’s Two Miles for Mary Radiothon will go a long way towards making up some of those losses, although even these efforts have their limits. Organizers decided against hosting their regular pancake breakfast once the provincial government brought in new public health orders, but the radio portion will return as normal.
Two Miles for Mary fundraising coordinator Marilyn Peterson said ridership is down since they started limiting the service to one passenger per ride. It’s just one of several challenges they’re trying to meet.
“We got through this year, but of course we do have concerns about the next year when the results will really start to be felt,” Peterson explained. “It is a concern, but there’s nothing we can do but carry on and hope this thing is over with soon.”
Peterson said they’ve been COVID-free since the start of COVID-19, with not a single case connected to the service. She credited the drivers for adhering to the regulations, and riders for being both cooperative and flexible. However, there is still a rough road ahead.
“We heard repeated comments from our riders about that, how it was just great (when) there was someone else in the car with them going to another place,” Peterson explained. “However, with COVID we weren’t able to do that, and we heard the regrets from riders about that. It will be nice when we’re able to get back to usual.”
The annual Two Miles for Mary Virtual Radiothon runs from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. To make a donation, phone 306-763-MARY (6279).